Thursday, December 8, 2011

'Game Over'

Those were the words I uttered to my roommate the exact moment Claude Giroux got the puck and had nothing but open ice in front of him and Ryan Miller in overtime last night. "Game over."

Right now, there may be nothing more automatic in sports than Claude Giroux scoring on a breakaway. Doesn't matter who the goaltender is, if Giroux is one on one with him, he's going to win every time. He's just on a whole other level than anyone else these days.

Last night, after the Flyers fell behind 3-0 in the first period before scoring a massively important goal by Max Talbot off a great play by Jakub Voracek with just one second remaining, Claude Giroux simply took over the hockey game. In a dominant second period for the Flyers, Giroux assisted on all three goals to put the Flyers ahead 4-3.

And even after Buffalo tied the game in the final two minutes of regulation, which could have easily derailed the Flyers and cost them a point, Giroux never let up. Then the breakaway happened, and everyone who's watched Giroux these past few years knew the game was over right then and there.

To be perfectly honest with you, I can't remember Claude ever being stopped on a pure breakaway in game action. Yes, he's failed to score in the shootout plenty of times, but during the actual game, he just never seems to miss. It's uncanny.

Then again, just about everything Giroux is doing this season is uncanny. With last night's four-point performance, Giroux leads the NHL in scoring with 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 26 games. He's on the Flyers' top power-play unit and their top penalty-kill unit. He's physical. He's fast. His ice vision is second to none. Everything about his game makes you marvel.

Centering Scott Hartnell and the ageless Jaromir Jagr, Giroux is the centerpiece of perhaps the best line in the NHL and unquestionably the star of the team. To be perfectly honest, with Sidney Crosby on the mend and Alexander Ovechkin struggling, Claude Giroux very well may be the best player in the NHL right now. No one in Philadelphia would argue with you about that.

Last night, he showed exactly why people feel that way. He did everything and was far and away the best player on the ice. Without him, the Flyers lose and probably lose badly after digging themselves that 3-0 hole. But with a helping hand from Voracek and Talbot to stop the bleeding, Claude simply took over from there. He wouldn't let the Flyers lose.

Then when the Flyers really needed it, he exploded the other way with only Ryan Miller between him and the net. And at that moment, every Flyers fan knew, "game over."

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